Growing veg: Salsola
Salsola, (Salsola soda) also known as agretti in Italy is a rather unusual vegetable. It is in the chenopodium family and thus has insignificant flowers. The plant looks rather grassy and can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. One of the reasons it is not more popular, apart from confusion over the name and general unfamiliarity, is that seed is not always readily available and it does not store well so you have to get fresh seed. Old seeds will not grow.
It is an annual, best sown where it is to grow, and needs reasonable warmth to germinate so should not be sown till April or May. Then the large seeds germinate, (sown 1cm deep) in a few weeks and the seedlings are grassy at first. Germination is generally poor and only 30% usually grow, the germination rate dropping rapidly as the seeds age. Plant quickly branch and can be thinned to 15cm apart. Plants grow quickly, as long as they are not too hot and dry, and are soon a little hedge of narrow leaves 30cm high, being very productive. It would be an attractive crop in a patio pot.
When grown commercially the whole plants are pulled for sale but the older stems are extremely stringy so I pick just the shoot tips with a short piece of stem. This is not something that I want with every meal but it does have a unique taste. Eaten fresh the leaves are crunchy, refreshingly green-tasting and remarkably salty. They are great in salads but they do have a tough texture and you will have bits stuck in your teeth. It may be better to steam or stir-fry them but the old stems will still be tough so stick to the young tips. It is a useful alternative to samphire and easier to grow, thriving in salty water in the wild but not requiring it.
If you can get seeds, this is an unusual and tasty crop and not difficult to grow. If you get a taste for it you will want it every year. I am happy to try it every few years.
The description is something like the pickleweed that grows wild around the perimeter of the San Francisco Bay, . . . but more appealing. Pickleweed does not look like something that tastes good, and for good reason; it doesn’t. This at least looks appealing.